Can fababeans replace soya?

Ioannis Mavromichalis
The recent crisis of feedstuff prices has brought a lot of attention to otherwise obscure and neglected ingredients. I was recently contacted to offer advice concerning the use of fababeans in diets for pigs. Apparently, a low-quality lot had been offered at a very competitive price to a small pig producer and he wanted to maximize their use to reduce feed cost as much as possible.

We ended up running some analyses to determine actual levels of anti-nutritional factors, based on which we maximized the use of fababeans. From this experience, I would like to share below some general points on this minor yet very interesting legume.

Fababeans (Vicia faba) is a legume related to the garden beans (those beans consumed by humans). They contain about 26% crude protein and they are rich in lysine, but rather poor in methionine. Fababeans contain about 9 MJ NE/kg, which is rather low because their oil content is very low always below 1.5%), and the crude fiber concentration is rather elevated (above 7%).

There are two major types of fababeans: those from white-flower varieties and those from coloured flower varieties. Their chemical composition and nutritive value is about the same, but the coloured flower varieties contain more tannins.

Tannins (usally about 0.3 to 0.5%) reduce feed intake, and depress digestibility of protein and energy. Other major anti-nutritional factors in fababeans include trypsin inhibitors (at levels below those found in raw soybeans) and hemagglutinins (at levels many times those found in raw soybeans).

The presence of these anti-nutritional factors make it necessary to limit the use of raw fababeans in pigs’ diets. The maximum level above which problems start to appear is around 15%.

In diets for young pigs, a conservative approach calls for levels not exceeding 5-10%. Of course, it is possible to feed even more than 20% fababeans in diets for finishing pigs, but if the fababeans are from coloured-flower varieties, feed intake will be reduced. Feeding high levels of fababeans creates a large volume of gastrointestinal gases and this should be taken into account when they are fed to gestating and lactating sows.

I would be interested to read about your field experiences in using fababeans in pig diets!


  • no-profile-image

    Dr Nikolaos Kotrotsios

    The European Union is heavily dependent on the import of protein rich feedstuffs, especially of soya bean meal from North and South America. To cover the gap between demand and supply of protein rich feed components and decreasing the cost, lately use of faba beans has gained interest. The main factor which could limit the use of V. faba beans in the diets, is the level of tannins, which may depress protein utilization. I would like to emphasize in the presence of those antinutrtional factors. I have to say that during my PhD thesis, I had my own personal experience using the carob meal (Mediterranean fruit constituted nutritious food) in the nutrition of fattening pigs. The presence of the condensed tannins of carob was 0,97%. So the addition of carobs on the different percentages in the rations of fattening pigs, it is possible to refer, taking in consideration the presence of tannins. The low levels of tannins may be beneficial for ruminants because tannins protect dietary protein from degradation in the rumen but in the monogastric animals lead to the adverse effects considering the performance parameters and the digestibility of nutrients. So the meaning is that we should take in consideration the flower variety of faba beans, the biological activity of protein level compared to the soya bean meal, the cost and the age of fattening pigs.

  • no-profile-image

    Bob Huber

    We grew the white flowered variety Snowbird which was developed and promoted for pig feed in Alberta. We farm in Ontario and as far as I know only my brother-in-law, the seed dealer and ourselves are the only farmers to grow them here. We are feeding at about the 5% level for the sows and finishers. Never noticed and adverse affects. (Only visual, no trials). We did have a faba plant desease problem that affected yield. We are tripling our acreage this season and taking measures keep the plants healthy. Brother-in-law feeds them to his dairy cows. FWIW Bob

  • no-profile-image

    Graeme Pope

    Faba Beans have been used in Australian pig diets as an alternative grain legume ingredient source to lupins & field peas for over 20 years now, & without issue, provided max inclusion levels are followed (b/w 10-15% weaners, 25% grower/finish).

Or register to be able to comment.